No more Rosie chickens from Petaluma Farms for me

I’m reading the excellent book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” right now.  For the past couple of years my wife and I have worked hard to buy more and more sustainable products in our lives.  When I came to a passage describing how companies like Petaluma Farms abuse the use of the term “free range” as a term to advertise their chickens, I was stunned.

See, there’s no true definition to “free range”.  It’s a nebulous term.  But since I bought from Whole Foods, and they proudly present the Rosie as their prime product, I (very mistakenly) assumed it was done… right.  I picture free range living as an environment free of wire cages, where the majority of the bird’s life is spent roaming, eating grass, grains, and other feed, etc.

According to Petaluma Farms’ website:

 USDA standards allow any poultry with access to the outside – even a small, outdoor, concrete pad – to be labeled free range.  Petaluma Poultry believes that free range chickens are raised in spacious poultry houses. Petaluma’s birds get approximately one square foot per bird, about 25% more space per bird than those raised in conventional poultry operations.

Now the average bird in a “conventional poultry operation” lives in a cage smaller than the size of a piece of 8.5×11 paper.  Can’t expand it’s wings fully.  Often can’t turn around.  So in context, the additional 25% *might* actually let them turn around.  Oh happy day.

Beginning at approximately four weeks of age, when the birds are fully feathered and able to withstand both exposure to the sun and cooler outside temperatures, the birds are allowed to roam outside of the house beginning about mid-morning, and are then ushered back inside the house around 5 pm.

This is better “spin” than when the Republican party introduced the “Clean Air Act”, a bill specifically designed to increase pollution levels.  Incidentally, farmed chickens are typically slaughtered in their 6th or 7th week, so Petaluma is basically giving them about 14 or so half-days of sunshine and walking around as a perk.  Notice that there’s no description nor pictures of the amount of space or grassy surface for walking around.  It could be as small as a parking spot, and we have no idea if it’s dirt, concrete, grass, or swampland (the latter is unlikely).  No pictures are on the site, and the lack of description is extremely telling.

I am contacting both Petaluma Farms and Whole Foods to inform them that I will no longer purchase this “product” (a term they both use to describe food I’m supposed to eat), and I hope some of you do the same.

My letter to Petaluma Farms:

Don’t you consider your marketing your factory farmed chickens as “free range” as not only manipulative, but damaging to the entire industry?

When I discovered your chickens spend most of their lives in a miserable cage, with a couple of weeks in the sun before slaughter, I was truly ashamed at all the money I’ve spent proudly buying your products.

Not another dime.

Incidentally, can you please add to your website some photos of your henhouse, including what it looks like fully occupied, and the outside “Free Range” area for the chickens to roam freely?

My letter to Whole Foods:

It has come to my attention that the “Rosie” brand chicken carried (at least) in Bay Area Whole Foods stores are far from the “free range” label implied in your stores.  Perhaps you are not aware of this, but the vendor, Petaluma Farms, actually follows typical factory farming approaches to raising chickens, with a bare minimum effort to achieve some type of “Free Range” designation.

This is bait-and-switch at best, and outright deception at worst.  On your “values” page, you claim “We have high standards and our goal is to sell the highest quality products we possibly can.”  I hope this is the case, and I hope you are willing to investigate the practices of Petaluma Farms.

You clearly have the buying power to mandate change, or to change vendors.  Also, my assumption is your customer base would rather shell out a few extra pennies knowing the food they are buying really is not only “natural” but raised in a more humane fashion.  Not to mention the fact that properly raised chicken actually taste better!

I’ll follow-up if anything comes of it – I have high hopes, but extremely low expectations.

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52 Comments on “No more Rosie chickens from Petaluma Farms for me”

  1. Here here. I was about to incorporate ‘Rosie’ in a sustainable foods recipe until I read through the FAQ on Petaluma Farms’ website. My jaw dropped to about the amount of room those chickens have to “freely roam.” By the way, The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a winner.

    Comment by Brook on June 26, 2009 at 12:52 pm
  2. I also am freaking out after my husband read sections of “the Omnivore’s Dilemma”. In fact I have spent the last week researching local companies I feel comfortable buying milk, eggs and chicken from. The chicken is for my mom who doesn’t want to know the gruesome details of farm life, just wants me to find her a “product” she can feel good about buying, if one can feel good about eating chicken. Do you have any recommendation where to find such a thing? I have chosen to support Clark Summit Farms for my eggs (they say you can buy their products at the Santa Rosa farmers market and in some stores), Strauss milk products (though I don’t feel so great about the 3x a day milking practice), and as for a chicken for my mother. . . still looking.

    Comment by Keren on October 23, 2009 at 3:41 pm
  3. You should read Nicolette Hahn Niman’s “Righteous Porkchop”.

    Comment by Peter Caldwell on November 12, 2009 at 9:09 am
  4. I find it very hard to find the real story behind “free range”/”cage free”. I have found a producer called TLC farms which comes to the farmer’s markets of Mountain View and Sunnyvale. They actually have pasture fed chickens (in addition to pigs and the like) and the photos to prove it! You can totally tell a difference in the egg. The shells are healthier, the protein is thicker and the yolks have a a beautiful dark orange color to them. They charge $6 a dozen for large and $7 for jumbo and they are well worth the money, for our bodies and ethics.

    Comment by Irene on November 17, 2009 at 2:07 pm
  5. thanks for the information. I did read the book by Pollan. I doubted the labeling practices by Rosie chicken i bought at Sprouts. I will not buy it again. thanks

    Comment by Raj on January 10, 2010 at 6:23 am
  6. Thanks for this info. Of course I’m scarf down one of their $20 chickens as I”m reading this. no mas for us.

    Comment by Nikko on February 18, 2010 at 3:49 pm
  7. You should know they also find a way to make the Rosie chickens plumper by adding water during the processing. The Rocky chickens are no better. Get your chickens from Marin Sun Farms if you can find them.
    Also fo more information on Petaluma Farms, you can see the farm on Google Earth
    The address is 700 Cavanaugh Lane in Petaluma

    Comment by Mary Ann Petro on March 5, 2010 at 1:09 pm
  8. Petaluma Farm is now bundled with several other farms and sold at Whole Foods under the name “Organic Valley”

    Comment by Zach on March 14, 2010 at 11:33 am
  9. I am so distraught right now. I am currently working on a project for school about the food we are putting in our bodies…and the deception behind it. I feel so terrible knowing that I have been buying free-range and cage-free eggs and chicken for years. Isn’t there anything we can buy that is honest?

    Comment by Franz on March 20, 2010 at 12:00 am
  10. I’ve been buying “organic” chicken breasts from Jimbo’s Natural Foods, erroneously assuming that that also meant “free range”. Come to find out that it does not – and worse, “free-range” also doesn’t mean what I thought it did. I then inquired about the “Smart Chickens’ that Jimbo’s sells. I was told that they were, in fact, free-range”. I looked up the Smart Chicken website and learned exactly what Jeremy, the author of this website, found out. (See the top of this page.)

    Comment by Inga on March 22, 2010 at 2:56 pm
  11. I’ve been duped along with so many other people. I was disgusted and shocked to read the Petaluma chicken website this evening and find out their definition of free range, as other people have mentioned. I live in San Francisco and am going to start telling everyone I know and talking to butchers everywhere I go about this situation. I will not eat Rocky’s, Mary’s or Rosie’s again and I will start passing the information every chance I get about what a racket this all is. The best way to stop this and demand honest production is with our mouths and pocketbooks. As someone else mentioned, isn’t there anyone honest out there anymore whose products we can trust and respect?

    Comment by Michelle on April 21, 2010 at 1:32 am
  12. Sadly, some of the high-end restaurants who believe in sustainability serve chickens from Rosie. I told a waiter once that they should take it off the menu, but he said it was a money maker since they advertise it as “free range”. I wish USDA would change the way our foods are labeled. I usually look for CCOF label on most things nowadays.

    Comment by Lydia on June 4, 2010 at 12:01 pm
  13. You honestly need to read the omnivore’s dilemma

    Comment by gabrielle on June 10, 2010 at 4:43 pm
  14. You honestly need to read the blog post you are commenting on.

    Comment by jeremy on June 17, 2010 at 10:14 am
  15. Well this bites! Just as I thought that I had found a reputable chicken,I read this.

    I am on a mission/ project to provide the best real food for my family. I bought Rosie chickens at sprouts in Plano Texas where I live and really felt good about my choices, even though they were $15.00 chickens. At one point my husband joked around by stating that for that kind of money the thing had better mow his yard or something.

    This is certainly disappointing, however I do have a solution. Local Farmers. We live in north central Texas, the Blackland Prarie. Today I did a little searching on the internet for local organic, farms. I cameacross a web-site called On this page I was able to locat tons of farms within an hour or two drive from my home. We chose a small local farm and visited their website, where we couldsee dated photos of their chickens, cattle, goats, and pigs. We bought a variety of items from eggs to pork cutletsright from the farm store and spent around $100.00. Truthfully, this wasn’t anymore expensive and I felt so great knowing that thesechickens were foraging on the grounds that I was standing on only days before. The cattle are raised on organic grasses and legumes in rotating pastures. As a writer,Iam working on a project to document and demonstrate ho a large middle class American family on a very fixedincome can find and afford the best foods available right from the source. If you are interested in joining my project, I am looking to interview American families who have decided to make thright eating choices for themselves and their families. You can email me if you are interested in putting your two cents in. My article is scheduled for late fall .

    Comment by Hava on July 7, 2010 at 10:06 pm
  16. In addition to The Omnivore’s Dilemma I strongly recommend reading Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safron Foer.
    Thanks for the eatwild website info.

    Comment by Irene on August 24, 2010 at 10:16 am
  17. I have been doing a little chicken & rggs research of late & have found that Petaluma Farms (home of Judy’s Eggs) is different from Petaluma Poultry where the (Rosie) is raised. I think we all need to be more aware of the conditions our food is raised under. Thanks Jeremy, for this post.

    Comment by lp on September 13, 2010 at 4:05 pm
  18. I always wondered why Rosie’s & Rocky’s were so FAT! They are fed soybean meal – which is HORRIBLE for them and people. I do not eat any soy. The soy they feed them is probably GMO, too! Swearing off Petaluma Farms products – including their eggs sold under Judy’s Family Farm – what a CROCK! I found The Cornucopia Institute’s website ( about Organic Eggs and rating the farms etc. – and ratings and saw Judy’s has a bad rating – BARELY organic.

    Comment by Celiene on October 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm
  19. Gosh, it sounds like we’re headed for a revolution, and it sounds good-to-me!!! You can count me in. I just watched food, Inc. and was sickened by the corruption, greed, deception, cruelty, and abuse we are all experiencing as a result of the Big Boys running the show. You want to talk about cancer, diabetes and all of the other health issues this country is facing? I am revolted by the way God’s living creatures are being treated, and we are eating them! We are eating them. How disgusting that we are allowing abuse to this magnitude, and we are eating them!!! We are to be good STEWARDS to our planet, our fellow humans, all living creatures and treat all living things with respect. This is not happening, and guess what? That’s why we and our world is in its current state. How can we continue to live with our heads in the sand pretending this is not happening. They have taken total control of us and it is getting, and going to continue to get worse until we are so sick and weak we cannot fight, or think or do anything but continue to sit on our big, fat McDonald’s asses.

    They have total control over our food, and shove the lies down our throats and tell us we WILL eat it and like it. “RISE UP, AND WAKE UP AMERICA” Seriously, we have another tobacco issue here, only this time its in the form of our food. WHOLE FOODS, WAL-MART???? LIARS, BIG BOX, BIG FAT, GREEDY, LIARS TRYING TO TAKE OUR HARD EARNED MONEY AND KILL US AS THEY ARE DOING IT!!!!! CHECK OUT THE SIZE OF THE ASSES THAT WADDLE IN AND OUT OF THESE SUPPOSED PREVAYERS OF HEALTHY, WHOLE FOODS, TO BUY HEALTHY FOOD….That’s not health and good stewardship. Get local stay local and kill the BIG BOX, BECAUSE THEY’RE KILLING US, AND THEY ARE CRUEL AND ABUSIVE TO GODS CREATURES. THE ANIMALS DON’T HAVE A VOICE BUT WE DO AND THEY NEED US AND WE NEED THEM. If we don’t start turning this rig around fast, the world, God, and Mother Nature will shake us off her like water off a wet dogs back. Not to get on the God squad factor, but I have to bring it down. God-Mother Nature whatever you like to call it will not tolerate it, and there will be a day of reckoning. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FARMER, WILD, ORGANIC, LOCAL. IF YOU ARE IN PETALUMA CA., ONE TO TRY GREEN-STRING FARMS. IT’S YOUR LIFE, IT’S OUR PLANET.

    Comment by ann on December 20, 2010 at 10:24 pm
  20. Two things:

    1. A truly free-range chicken is not a vegetarian but an omnivore, delighting in bugs, as well as plants. I’m thus somewhat disturbed by what I view as misguided attempts by organic chicken breeders and egg suppliers to provide chickens and eggs resulting from a “vegetarian-only” diet. That’s just not natural, and it would seem to indicate that the birds aren’t truly “cage-free,” either–not when their diets have to be so artificially restricted to vegetarianism.

    2. Does anyone but me stop to consider what chicken meat and other meat gets packaged in? I was aghast when Smart Chicken started packaging its product on Styrofoam trays. I complained heartily to my natural food store, and they complained enough to get Smart Chicken to switch to something else. Unfortunately, what they switched to–No. 1 PETE (polyethylene) petroleum-based plastic trays–is no better in my community. These, like the Styrofoam trays before them, get diverted into our local landfill. Just great. Not only is the “natural” life of Petaluma’s Smart Chicken chickens highly suspect, but so is their true commitment to environmental policy when they package their chicken products in plastic trash that will last practically forever in my local landfill–or, worse, get blown into the nearby Pacific Ocean. Time was when just-slaughtered chickens got packaged in waxed cardboard boxes of ice, shipped via refrigerated truck to the store, where butchers cut them to order and wrapped them in waxed butcher paper tied with string. Yes, by all means read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but also watch Reel Thing Production’s documentary about plastic, “Bag It.” If that doesn’t convince you to take a good, long, hard look at your plastic-consumption habits, nothing will. Consider all of the organically grown food out there that then gets packaged in plastic. Talk about undoing all of that good intent, as far as the earth and public health is concerned.

    Comment by Sonya Newlyn on January 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm
  21. I am going to write a letter to Eureka “natural” Foods and tell them what they sell as “free range” Rocky chickens is erroneous, that I will not buy these chickens again and that I will also notify everyone I can in the area of their Rocky chickens. I hope they sell these chickens because they do not know the facts about how the ads for Rocky chickens are a lie; they are “Agri Businesses” for sure and I will try to put them OUT of business with my pocketbook! (and yes I read the”Righteous Porkchop”)

    Comment by pat kanzler on March 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm
  22. I bought what was packaged to LOOK like chicken breast the other day, and it turned out to be back or God only knows what part of the chicken! Paid $10 for what looked like three breasts, and by the time I got the usable meat off of it, I had to throw away about 65% of the package because it was connective tissue or whatever. Rosie’s is a rip off.

    Comment by Karen on March 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm
  23. WOW!
    I just got off the phone with Rocky. I asked what the chickens were fed. A healthy diet of corn and soy? WTF?

    I am someone who suffers from corn allergies and am trying desperately to rid myself of consuming corn.

    I will be checking out the farms listed above.

    This is so messed up… that shit is in everything :^(

    Comment by JoEllen Ussery on October 11, 2011 at 11:16 am
  24. I totally agree! I am reading that book and it’s really eye opening. I think BIG organic just doesn’t work. I’m 100% for buying local organic farms- I can actually talk about there farming methods in person!

    Comment by Aaron on November 14, 2011 at 12:49 am
  25. found this blog while researching Judys Eggs. I will be calling them direct to ask questions as I can see that there is a difference between the rosie chicken and judys eggs. I agree whole heartedly about animals, poultry, any living creatures right to being treated well. I also know how labeling can misrepresent a product. That is why I will do my own research.
    However, I do not like the sarcastic tone of this blog and particularly the response to a comment ” you honestly need to read the blog you are commenting on.” I am sure you hurt this persons feelings, and don’t we all skim blogs? The way the information was presented was so distasteful, I really did not want to keep reading, but did so to try to get an overview of what was being expressed. Please try to address your commenters with respect.

    Comment by Renee on December 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm
  26. Renee,
    First, In the case you have picked, I felt the original commentor was being disrespectful, and so wrote the same back to him. Ultimately, the Internet is a big place and people are welcome to spend their time wherever they like. I’m sorry you find my tone sarcastic, but this is my little corner online, and I have the right to write however I please, and if it costs me readers, so be it – I’m not in this for the money, audience, fame, or anything other than self-expression…

    Comment by jeremy on December 8, 2011 at 3:57 pm
  27. I live in Denver, Co and am most frustrated to see that the three local health
    food stores all carry Rosie’s chickens. Most people don’t have the time or
    motivation to research their food source, as Michael Pollan recommends and nstead trust the store. I am a new member of the Weston A. Price Foundation
    and will be buying my chickens from a fellow member who raises 75 pastured chickens. My pastured eggs come from my raw milk farmer

    Comment by Diana Kies on January 17, 2012 at 12:36 pm
  28. hey guys really into humanely raised meats here! won’t touch any factory farmed animal products, and i am talking about both meat and DAIRY!!

    does anyone know anything or have anything negative to say about Mary’s chicken sold at southern California’s Whole Foods? I mistakenly told the guy in the meat department all of this rubbish because I got Mary’s mixed up with Judy’s . . . arrrggggg..

    i want you guys to know that the best chicken out there is from, they raise all of their animals humanely and what’s awesome is all of the animals eat grass! for the chickens and pigs who need more than that, they get some organic grains as well, fine with me :)
    also check out storm hill beef co op’s beef from, pastured beef that is finished on non gmo corn, humanely raised! great for people who don’t like the taste of grass-fed however want to be assured the animals are raised humanely!
    we could argue all day about the grass-fed, corn-fed argument, it really just comes down to what you are comfortable with! i, myself, all i worry about is the treatment of the animals, hell cows eating corn are probably more happy anyways as it tastes good and probably makes them feel good as well.. i don’t buy into the whole, corn is bad for cows argument!

    just wanted to throw that in there because sometimes as humans we get obsessed with these ideas that animals have to live off grass and can’t enjoy anything else! the main priority should be the treatment of the animals!!

    again just wanted to inquire about Mary’s, I will do my own research and post back :)

    happy humane eating fellow world leaders :)

    Comment by humanehomechef on January 18, 2012 at 1:52 am
  29. hey guys just checked out Mary’s Chicken looks 100% legit and humanely raised to me! the bronze pastured chicken seems to be the highest quality however all of it looks great! they are fed organic corn and soybean meal (that means no gmo, yay!!!) so for some of you you won’t agree with this! my main priority is the treatment of the animals so i don’t mind what they eat, in fact they probably taste great!

    peace out :)

    Comment by humanehomechef on January 18, 2012 at 1:59 am
  30. Really interesting fact here, but haven’t been able to find out the results as of 12/14/12. Look up > petaluma farms 9/5/2012 < (this is the FDA,citations web-site, and I, for one, as a concerned consumer want to know the outcome here, or is it buried in some beuricratical paperwork ? Dirty egg suppliers Thought this is controlled by the gov.? I want to know what's been done to correct the problems of filth on petaluma farms egg ranch. Anyone have an answer?

    Comment by generosa on December 14, 2012 at 6:14 pm
  31. I bought 2 packs of ROSIE’s drumsticks last night at sprouts. I fed it to my 4 kids and I this evening. My son found a TACK NAIL in his drumstick, beteween the meat and the bone. I felt bad that everyone was saying to contact a lawyer, since they were a sustainably farmed brand and I am a huge supported of that… but after googling them and reading so many poor reviews and how pathetically they have worked the system simply for profits, Im not feeling so bad anymore. disgusted.

    Comment by Krista on January 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm
  32. I have recently read The Happiness Diet and have become interested (okay, maybe even bordering on obsessed) with what is being fed to the animals that I am purchasing- this includes eggs, milk, butter, cheese and the actual animal itself. I will be honest, I am NOT in this at all for the humane way the animals are being treated but am intent on fueling my body with the proper nutrients that humans are supposed to live off of, like we did back in the day, before food processing and the like. I live in southern orange county and surprisingly, I am having a lot of trouble finding a local farmer or place to buy these types of foods from.(I have found ONE co-op 30 minutes away that costs $300 to join and I am not even sure where they source their products from) I have purchased grass-fed beef and lamb from trader joes and pasture raised eggs, milk, butter, and grass fed cheese from Whole Foods. I have been a little skeptic of Whole Foods, I think that they ultimately mean well, but they still are a larger sized corporation, and this erks me a little. The other day, I purchased a $15 Mary’s pasture raised, step 5 chicken (Whole foods doesn’t have a level 4) I went to Mary’s website and watched a video on how these animals are raised, outside on grass pastures, the chickens are moved every 3 to 4 days to give them new grass to feed on. This all seems well and good UNTIL i click on the link that describes what Mary’s chickens are fed a vegetarian diet of….. CORN AND SOY!! and, the pasture raised chickens aren’t organic so there is a chance the corn and soy they are being fed is GMO. I am starting to get very frustrated and I am not really sure what to do. Does any one who lives in Southern california have any ideas of stores or farmers to contact to purchase beef, beef products, chicken and chicken products that have been fed healthy diets?? I am feeling at a loss here and am about ready to give up. Also in response to “free-range”, this basically only means that the chickens are given the opportunity to spend time outside, even if its just a small, concrete patch. I think many people (and myself included until I looked it up) think of free-range meaning what pasture-raised means. There is a likely-hood that a “free-range” chicken does not get the chance to eat grass and bugs, as a chicken should. at this point, the term “free-range” means absolutely nothing to me. But yea, if anyone has any advice on where/how to source quality animal products, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Comment by Sabrina on February 7, 2013 at 2:30 am
  33. Natural is good. Rosie’s is probably the best I can get at the moment. It’s better than most. Since there are no hormones, it probably develops slower than regular factory chicken which explains the price difference.

    The ultimate chicken foodie experience is wild chicken. Some places in the world such as mountainous regions in Taiwan or southeast Asia there are mountain chickens that live in the hills, completely wild. Some villages hunt them and you can get a dish at some remote restaurants known as three cup wild chicken referring to three spices. It’s cooked in a pot and is about one third the size of a chicken raised in captivity on soy and corn. The meat is almost pure muscle and tough, no fat at all for $20.

    It could be possible to do the same in ones backyard assuming that zoning regulations permit. I bought some chicks at a local farm store and am trying to raise them for eggs. Local farming is the way for us to get back to real food. To do that we have to change local regulations to allow local farming. It would probably cost about $20/pound for a real chicken.

    Comment by Clem on March 5, 2013 at 11:48 pm
  34. This is completely false information. I have been to Petaluma Poultry and their birds are completely FREE RANGE!!! The chickens like to stay together and there is tons of extra space. Also, the doors stay open all day and the chickens have the freedom to stay inside or go outside and that gives them even more room. These chickens were treated very humanely and I will continue to purchase Rocky and Rosie chickens. My question to you Jeremy… Have you ever visited Petaluma Poultry? They have a Facebook page (Rocky and Rosie chicken) with lots of pictures.

    Comment by Blake on May 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm
  35. We commend you for doing your research before buying! Love that you and your wife are striving to eat better. Visit our website for a directory of real FARMS that sell animal products you can feel good about.

    Keep up the great work!

    -The folks at

    Comment by FARMetarian on June 10, 2013 at 9:14 am
  36. I am PISSED!!! I have been paying nearly $7.00 per pound for this chicken that I thought was more humane. I just placed a call to them; unfortunately they were all out of the office at a meeting of some kind so I didn’t get to talk to them. I am so sick of the manipulative LIES that the food industry feeds us. I am also very sad that I have been eating chickens that have been raised in less than humane conditions. I am not going to spend another dime with them!!!

    Comment by alicia on July 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm
  37. i just checked out there facebook page per another comment. They seem to have out door areas provided for the hens. There is no grass but that is impossible to do unless they have field rotation. They do not advertise “pastured” so I have no issue with that. They do seem to provide better living for the chickens than conventional growers.

    Comment by alicia on July 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm
  38. I stopped eating regular chicken many years ago as all the additives, hormones and antibiotics make me really sick. No hypochondria here, my GI system goes into painful and continual revolt several hours after the meal. (TMI?) I’ve been functioning fine on organic chicken, and even Rocky chicken, which guarantees no additives. I’ve happily eaten it for years.
    Recently I tried Mary’s free range chicken which advertises itself as so much better than even Rosie, because the chickens run free and are air chilled. But they still have all the additives that make me so sick. Twice I’ve been caught off guard and have suffered the consequences; I’m writing this now from under a hot pad cramping badly. Advertising pulled the wool over my eyes again. (Full disclosure: my husband works in advertising.)
    The point to this story is that we should understand that we are forced to question everything we eat; there are no easy answers out there. Even this blog post, which the author may believe to be true in his point of view, has major flaws in my point of view. (Maybe he works for Mary’s and is trying to camouflage their use of chemical additives.) Maybe he’s just not seeing the whole picture and the compromises we must make at every meal.

    Comment by Cindy on July 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm
  39. Just so you know.. chickens aren’t raised in cages when raised for their meat, maybe in the egg industry. Also I have been to organic farms, which per USDA require outside areas equal to the size of chicken house, with water and structures for shade. Most of the chickens choose to not even go outside! The stay where the food and climate control is, inside!

    You should probably visit a facility and/or actually do research on subject before you talk about uncovering the truth about it… or you could just go Vegan.

    Also Whole Foods requires at least a GAP 2 approval rating on all Chicken products in their store…

    Comment by Sarah on August 7, 2013 at 1:02 pm
  40. @Cindy – you could tell if i work for Mary’s just by googling me…

    @Alicia – so you went to their Facebook page, which they control, then think everything’s fine? really?

    @Blake – What pictures do you have to provide to substantiate it?

    Comment by jeremy on August 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm
  41. Wow. I can’t believe I didn’t look into this sooner….I was suspicious, but then again always am when it comes to labeling and what our government allows. I blindly trusted this product and have been feeding it to my family for over a year. Luckily, I have rid my family of “meat/poultry products” lol in the past week anyway soooooo time for a cleanse?! Shame on the FDA. Shame on the Department of Agriculture.

    Comment by Heidi on October 30, 2013 at 12:34 pm
  42. WOW! What a great blog! I’ve been buying their organic chicken for years thinking I was doing the right thing by “avoiding” factory farmed meat. Like egg labeling, you really can’t believe what you read. Thank you for shedding light on this topic. I think I’m going 100% vegetarian. You just can’t trust any company.

    Comment by Antoinette on December 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm
  43. I just purchased yesterday at sprouts grocery thinking this was non-gmo chicken as stated, but thought the breast looked rather large for a chicken. Now reading this, I don’t believe that either. bummer

    Comment by Kristy Kramer on February 2, 2014 at 8:14 am
  44. What pictures is the PF salesperson on here referring to? I went to the facebook site and there was only one picture, very distant of a gigantic Foster Farms style chicken house with a tiny outdoor area? Chickens have to be CONDITIONED to go outside, particularly the cornish raised here. PF would not give access to Michael Pollan.
    Im believing the whole free range thing is a farce here. Chickens are healthier when they are forced to forage, eat bugs and particularly pasture. I suggest finding a local farmer who raises no more than 1000 chickens and buy from her!

    Comment by Frank Hartzell on June 6, 2014 at 8:00 am
  45. Try red hill farms eggs I know for a fact there free range. If you stop by the ranch you will see the chickens roaming in spacious fields

    Comment by ben on August 21, 2014 at 8:54 am
  46. Check out victorian farms. What I’ve been able to determine, they are sustainable and humane. I’m not well versed, so maybe Im being snowed. But they look good.

    Comment by Fiona on September 11, 2014 at 10:25 pm
  47. I am a big fan of Rosie chicken mainly because it tastes better, cooks moister, and is at least is trying to follow organic guidelines. I have to say that the comments on this site are somewhat unfair as to the methods used to raise animals and what we consume. I am with you on elimination of as many artificial “product” enhancers from our diets. Unfortunately, the things you mention and are looking for are more a result of us, as consumers, that continue to increase the demand on these producers by using more and more of their products and requesting that they always be available when we go to the store.

    As consumers we have been spoiled by our own methods to eradicate disease, illness, shorten growth times, and, in short, find ways to meet increasing demand to ensure that products are always available. Prior to WWII it was standard practice when going to a store and only buy what was available rather than having an expectation of it being there when we want it. Suppliers found ways to meet our convenience and availability demands and now we criticize them for it.

    I think the real issue is the same as we have in everything else in our country is the loss of our own personal control. If you want to know what feed your animal products are consuming and what environment they grow up in you will only be successful if you raise them (i.e control them) yourself. If you want others to do it then you will have to entrust that they are doing what they can to balance your expectations of “organic”, “free range”, and availability. Blasting a company like Petaluma Poultry because they looked to the USDA definitions of free range and organic while delivering their products seems unfair to them. What you are really saying is that the USDA has the definitions wrong and that is where you should look to correct the problem. After all, these terms are simply branding like “Coke” and “Borden” that are defined by our political leaders. Petaluma and other suppliers earn the right to label these products as such only because they meet the government definition and requirements.

    Comment by leo on October 25, 2014 at 10:35 am
  48. My dad used to raise chickens in Arkansas for Tyson. Although, I don’t purchase from Tyson because they only allow their food blend to be used which is of questionable origins. I never was appalled by the conditions in the chicken houses. Other than having a lot feathers and dust which is not good for allergies. In general, conventional chickens for meat are raised cage free. There was room for me to walk around in the house without stepping on a chicken. I thought it was cool that they arrived on buses as chicks. There was lots of ventilation. A requirement. The houses did allow in some natural light and air. Not as smelly as I thought they would be. The most appalling part about raising chickens is the harvest time. Chickens that do not make the cut for serving have to be discarded. Having spent time around different types of chickens. They are not the brightest animals. I would focus your concerns on slaughter methods and the feed. The best chickens of course are farm raised in small coops, but that’s not realistic on a Whole foods/Costco level.C

    Comment by C on January 18, 2015 at 11:46 am
  49. No poultry used for food is raised in cages. They do spend their short lives in crowded chicken houses, and are legally called free range. You are talking about egg laying hens kept in battery cages which are being outlawed in California.

    Comment by Christy on February 28, 2015 at 12:31 am
  50. We’ve been buying our chicken and eggs (when available) from Fiesta Farm, based in Watsonville, CA.

    They have a CSA delivery program with south bay drop-offs. They also have a stand at the Sunnyvale Farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.

    I trust the farmers, a young couple, and have faith they are raising the chickens the way you’d want them to, both really good for the chickens and for the environment.

    We eat a lot less chicken than we used to, but I feel good about what we’re putting in our bodies and because we’re able to support a local small business operation.

    Their website has more info but it is currently being updated. They have a facebook presence at

    Comment by Cynthia Fan on March 18, 2015 at 5:26 pm
  51. Another horrible thing to look at is that from an insider, an employee “Tuesdays are the only day where the chickens are killed humainly, and that is even a horrible way. It’s disgusting the way the ‘chicken ninjas’, a term used for the slaughter crew, they half electrocute, partially boil and cut the chickens so they bleed everywhere until they die, slowly”. This is from a worker who says she no longer eats chicken, and is leaving as soon as she can find another income for her and her family. Really the town where humaine animal care is a ‘prized & true way’. A town where there is a parade for this very animal, shall I say it’s egg. If this is just the tip, I am so thankful I don’t eat meat. I have nothing against eating meat; if that’s what you like. But, stop the mass producing, wasting, harming innocent animals. Hunt, fish, farm. Make sure the animals have a good life and end it quickly, humainly. . . . It’s very sad to know that we can sit and turn our cheeks & let this happen because well were a very selfish species.

    Comment by Frankie on March 28, 2015 at 10:38 pm
  52. I can totally tell the difference now that I’ve experienced “Pastured” eggs which I believe is a regulated word. When chickens eat bugs, they have dark orange yolks whereas grain fed (organic and conventional) are pale yellow. Thank you for the article on chickens though. I was hoping Rosies were more pastured but I see they are not. Pastured chicken is hard to come by even here in Sonoma County except perhaps the farmers market

    Comment by Joshua on June 11, 2015 at 8:19 pm

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